A MAN who successfully battled a bug that was destroying his flesh has been back to Salisbury District Hospital say thank you to staff.

Kevin Barker was just hours away from death when he was rushed into hospital with the infection necrotising fasciitis.

He had gangrene in his arm and leg, caused by the toxic streptococcal bacteria circulating in his blood. After being admitted to the intensive care unit at Salisbury, surgeons had to cut away the dead flesh to prevent the infection spreading and he was placed on special antibiotics. But there was still a chance he would have to have his right arm and lower left leg amputated.

His ordeal started at 4am one morning when the father-of-two was suddenly unable to breathe after a spell of feeling under the weather.

He said: “In the first 48 hours they did not know if I would survive. We called an ambulance and I was rushed to Southampton General Hospital and given an oxygen mask. The next thing I knew, I woke up three-and-a-half weeks later in intensive care in Salisbury.” Mr Barker had been in an induced coma. His arms were elevated and he was heavily bandaged. He had not moved for the best part of a month. He said: “It was painful but I was on so many drugs, it became a sensation. I thought how am I going to get out of this? My goal was to get better and recover as much as possible.”

Once the infection had been overcome, he had to undergo twice-weekly skin graft operations for three and a half months.

For three weeks his right hand was attached to his thigh to help ensure a skin graft was successful. Mr Barker was finally discharged on New Year’s Eve 2012 and has battled his way back to health, forcing himself to walk long distances, despite having much of the muscle in his leg cut away.

A keen marathon-runner, the 42-year-old has completed a 10k event in 80 minutes and plans to run a marathon in Madrid in April.

Sadly, being unable to close his right hand means Mr Barker, who grew up in Redlynch, cannot pursue his dream of becoming a professional classical guitarist. He had given up his job with a bank and spent 18 months learning the instrument.

He said: “I don’t feel bitter or angry. In fact I have never been happier in my entire life. A lot of people die from what I had, or lose limbs, so I’m one of the lucky ones. When I was in hospital in Salisbury, people were wonderful to me. I’m very grateful.”

He said the whole experience was tough on his wife Monica, who does not drive and had to listen to doctors talking about amputating his arm and leg, while he lay unconscious. Since discharge, Mr Barker, who lives in Southampton, found himself a new job as a manager with Way Investment Services in Wimborne. By way of thank you, he raised £190 for the Salisbury hospital’s Stars Appeal when his colleagues agreed to make a donation instead of circulating Christmas cards and the amount was matched by his employer.